Hey! It looks like you're new here. You might want to check out the introduction.

Through Fire · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
The Gift
She was awesome, she knew that much. And yet she’d managed to outdo even herself.

“Girls.” Rainbow Dash raised her forehoof, letting everypony else finally see what she’d been holding. Only the hint of a grin betrayed her satisfaction. “Get a load of this.”

A dripping pink mane ooh’ed in the tub. A yellow forehoof went to an open mouth in shock by the massage table. A cucumber slice fell from the white-lidded eye and Twilight, being the voice in the group, said what they were all thinking. “Wow, Rainbow. That’s amazing!”

It wasn’t all that heavy, which had come as somewhat of a surprise to her —something made of solid gold should’ve weighed like an ursa, she’d thought. The necklace had this vibe of antiquity to it, what with its artsy lines and everything, which was kind of weird considering it still looked like it was brand new. Rainbow Dash figured it had to have been magicked somehow, which made it all the cooler, like a lost artifact! “I know, right? It was a real chore to get, too!”

She twirled the necklace in her hoof as if she were holding a yo-yo. She didn’t want it to break, however, and soon caught it back in her grip. “I had to pay myself sick —the griffons really didn’t want me to have it.”

Rarity, lounging in her mud bath, tittered. “Oh, Rainbow, it’s fabulous, but what’s the occasion?”

“Oh! Applejack’s birthday is coming up, and I thought it'd make for a totally radical gift!”

The tittering died off. “You do realize this is Applejack were talking about? You know she isn't all that big on jewelry, right?”

A violently pink giggle-monster emerged from the giant tub, sending a tidal wave of water everywhere. “Oh my gosh! Can you just, like, imagine Applejack bucking trees in a frilly pink dress, covered from head to heel in jewels? She’d be a real walking, talking treasure chest!”

Pinkie fell on her back giggling and snorting, and occasionally arr' ing. Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes.

“What kinda friend you take me for?” She waved all her friends over —some of whom trotted up a little more soaked or covered in mud than others— and flipped the pendant around. “Look what’s written on the back!”

They lowered their heads in.

“To the Apple of my eye, Buttercup. Love, Bright Mac,” Twilight read.

The most difficult part about acquiring it had, surprisingly, been where to start. Listening to Granny Smith and Goldie Delicious gab on and on about old mare’s tales had nearly driven her to the loonie bin. Rainbow had literally had to go through Tartarus and back, but she knew all along, that it would soon all be worth it. “Be honest. Am I awesome, or what?”

She was. She really, really was. She was the best-est, most awesome friend anypony could ever have, and her friends would soon prove that by saying absolutely nothing.

Rainbow Dash frowned. “Well?”

The four mares looked between one another. Unspoken conversations were being had before her eyes, and it seemed she wasn’t allowed to take part in any of them. “Rainbow,” Rarity began slowly, but not unsympathetically. “It’s a beautiful gift, but are you absolutely sure it’s a good idea to give this to Applejack?”

What kind of stupid question was that? “No, it’s the best idea! I came up with it!” Rainbow crossed her forehooves on her chest.

“What I think Rarity meant,” Twilight said, “is that the gift might not be as suitable as you think. Are you sure it's a good idea to give her this, now?”

The others nodded their agreement. Slowly, the realization began to dawn on her.

Oh, I see how it is. You’re jealous.” She took off and glared at the others. “You’re all jealous that I found Applejack a better gift than you!”

Gasps and denials were yelled. Twilight stomped her hoof. “That's not it all, Rainbow, and you know it! It’s not a competition!”

“No!” Rainbow Dash shot off to the window. “Just you wait until Applejack sees the gift I got her. She’ll be completely blown by how awesome, cool, and radical friend I am. You’ll see!”

She was well out of the building before the sounds of her friends calling out to her rang in her ears.

“Hey, Applejack.”

Rainbow brought her forehooves up to her mouth.

“Hey! Applejack!”

Applejack didn't stop. Maybe she should have nested in one of the trees closer to the clearing, Rainbow Dash wondered. The rattling of the cart must’ve been making it difficult for Applejack to hear her despite the birds, and everypony else, having gone quiet for the evening.

She flew out and landed on the dirt path a few steps in front of Applejack. “Hey, AJ.”

Applejack scrambled back. The cart she'd been harnessed to skid to a halt, and nearly toppled as a result. “Consarnit, Rainbow. You done nearly scared me outta my hide!”

“Yeah, sorry about that.” She helped Applejack back to her hooves. “I needed to talk to you, pronto.”

“Can it wait? I’m kind of in the middle of something.” Applejack waved at the cart.

Rainbow Dash took a peek over Applejack's shoulder. What first appeared to be an assortment of rusty scrap metal, was in closer inspection a set of gardening tools she failed to recognize, safe for the ladder, of course. They smelled of work. “What exactly are you doing?”

Applejack pointed at the hill in the middle of the clearing ahead. “I’m heading to take care of the first tree my grandparents ever planted here when they settled in these parts.”

Rainbow looked up, and up, and then realized the top of the tree wasn’t actually visible for all the clouds that were starting to gather. “Seems like a lot of work.”

“Eeyup.” Applejack smiled, somehow, contently. “It's probably gonna take me the rest of the eve to prune the branches and check up on them roots and whatnot. Wanna lend a hoof?”

“I’ll pass.”

“Suit yerself.” Applejack shrugged the harness back on tight and started pulling. “Ya mind we walk and talk?”


The wagon creaked, much like a bridge under a heavy load, and filled the lull in conversation. A metallic grind that had appeared somewhere underneath—Rainbow Dash’d never cared too much for carriages to know—was steadily increasing in volume, so she had to raise her voice. “I’ve got something I gotta show you.”

“‘S long as it don’t take too long, I’m all yours, sugarcube.”

Rainbow Dash thrust her forehoof forward, and for the second time, Applejack scrambled back as if struck. “What in tarnation, Dash?”

“It’s your present. Happy Birthday!”

Applejack took the bauble in her hooves. “Oh, shucks, you shouldn’t have. Thank ya kindly, Rainbow.” She brushed its gleaming surface, admiring her own reflection on it. “Hope 't weren't none too expensive.”

Ooo, you betcha.”

Rainbow grinned victoriously, and when her eyes squinted it may have looked to her like AJ’s smile never left her face. “Dash,” Applejack asked, her gaze zigzagging between Rainbow Dash’s face and the necklace. “How much did this thing cost?”

“Like a whole bunch.” Dash waved her forehoof. “A wonderbolt’s salary. No biggie.”

The grumble was something that she often heard when she’d been sleeping in AJ’s trees again. “Ya know jus’ as much as everypony else that I ain’t into that fru-fru stuff…”

“Read the back.”

Applejack turned the pendant over. Her lips mouthed words for a second, and Rainbow watched her friend’s world upend itself.

Rainbow leaned her back against a tree. “Yeah, I’m pretty awesome. No need to thank me.”

“Rainbow, I—” Applejack had finally raised her gaze back to her, or at least tried to—it always went back to the pendant an instant later. “I can’t take this.”

Rainbow’s eyebrows furrowed, uncontrolled. “What are you on about, AJ?”

“I can’t accept something like this.” Applejack suddenly pushed the necklace back into her grip with such force she nearly fell over.

“What the hay, AJ?" Rainbow tried to give the pendant back. "What’s the big deal?! It’s a gift, take it!”

“I-I can’t, Rainbow.” Applejack began walking, then sped up. The creaking got louder and louder, and the wagon’s wheels began to wobble. “I just can’t.”

“So, what? You think it sucks? You think it’s a bad gift, huh?”

Applejack shook her head. Her face had lost nearly all its color. “No, it ain’t like that at all!”

Rainbow landed in front of her again. “Then why, AJ?”

“Rainbow.” Applejack tried to lay a hoof on her shoulder, but she shied away. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s the perfect gift. I just can’t accept it.”

Rainbow Dash stood completely still. There was a sting in the tip of her nose she felt, as well as the smell of moisture in her nostrils.

“Some Honesty you are.”

The sky welcomed her again when none of friends seemed to. She was a thousand miles away in a second, lacking everything including the enjoyment.

She knocked on the door three and a half times and then looked somewhere a thousand yards underground. Her hooves were muddy, and there was a tiny puddle of murky water right by the doorway, though she had no idea how it could be there when the downpour never quite reached it.

Coming!” The voice sounded so jolly, even when it was coupled with a yawn, and Rainbow Dash was not in the mood for it. The door opened, and she looked up.

Rarity must’ve laid one look down at her sad-looking form and known exactly what had happened. “Don’t tell me you—”

“I called her a liar.”

Rainbow soon found herself warm, indoors, and wrapped up in a swarm of towels. “Goodness! You’re all wet!”

“That’s what happens when you fly in the rain, Rarity.” She didn't bother fixing her posture. She felt like staying slumped on her rump, just as she felt like keeping the tone of her voice the way it was, thank you very much. “Applejack didn’t want my gift.”

An upholstered squeak heralded Rarity sitting herself down on her couch. “You know, darling, I don’t think it was a question whether she didn’t want the gift, but rather if she could have it.” She started levitating dirty towels into a hamper.

“Well, she could’ve.” Rainbow dried her mane off. “I was practically trying to put it on her.”

“That’s not quite what I meant, Dash.” Rarity hummed thoughtfully. If she’d had fingers, Dash imagined she would have snapped them. “Remember Tank?”

Dash gave her a dangerous leer. “What’s Tank got to do with this—?”

A towel stopped on her lips. “Hush, darling, and let me explain. Remember how you got stuck in the Ghastly Gorge?”

She smacked herself in the face. “Wish I didn’t.

“And then Tank came up and heroically saved you. You wanted to repay the favor, so you took him on as a pet.”

“Well, I mean...” Dash played with her hooves. “Kinda, but…”

“Yes, or no, darling.”

Rainbow Dash sighed. “Yeah.”

“And how much did you say that necklace cost again?”

Rainbow pursed her lips. Carrying the bit-bag over to the bluffs had counted as her exercise for the day, if not for the entire week— if she ever felt the need to, she could part-time as a piano mover! Then she remembered a wagon with rusted nails, grinding gears, wobbling wheels and flaking paint.

“But I don’t need AJ to owe me!” Rainbow objected. “She’s a friend, and friends don’t owe each other anything!”

Rarity stared her in the eye. “Are you telling me, Rainbow Dash, that you wouldn’t feel the least bit same way, were your places switched?"

“No!” She crossed her forehooves on her chest and tried to look away. “Maybe…”

Rarity stared back at her.

“Okay, I would. But it doesn't mean she has to!”

“It’s not a matter of what we want her to feel, darling. It’s a matter of how she feels.”

“Well, the way she feels is dumb!”

Rarity laid a hoof on her shoulder. “I don’t think it would be all that friendly to force somepony to think in a certain way, either. Applejack is our friend and we have to accept the fact that she can make choices for herself.” She lifted the final towel off Dash's withers. “You wouldn’t like if somepony else told you what you should do.”

Rainbow grumbled under her breath. “No.”

“And there you go.” Rarity trotted over to the laundry hamper and carried it out of the room without another word.

Rainbow slowly got up. “That’s it?”

Rarity’s humming came from the other room, soon joined by the sound of running water and bubbles that spilled into the room. “What am I supposed to do?”

“The same thing you always do, darling.” The necklace, now squeaky clean—Rainbow never even noticed when'd Rarity managed to nick it— floated in and settled itself before her hooves. “You be there for her when she needs you the most. That’s why you’re Loyalty.”

Rainbow stopped in the doorway on her way out. The rain had died down to a drizzle, the night had fallen, but Dash didn’t feel like sleeping.

And the big building in the center of town had just given her an idea.

When Applejack asked the question, there was genuine amazement in her voice. “What in Equestria are you doing here this early in the mornin’, RD?”

Rainbow Dash mocked being hurt. “What? Can’t a mare take a walk around the orchard before sunup?” She’d opted not to wait in a tree at all, this time. Mostly it was just so she wouldn’t fall asleep, but AJ didn’t have to know that. “Relax, AJ. I just wanted to hang out.”

“Well, don’t let me stop ya." Applejack pushed past her. "I gotta go finish up the ol’ tree. Had to let up early yesterday ’cos o’ the rain.”

Applejack trotted the sodden path, her hooves splashing mud-water with every other step. Every other of those steps was light, and every other perhaps a little less controlled. Dash followed but didn’t say a word.

“Listen.” Applejack sighed. “I’m mighty sorry ‘bout yesterday, Rainbow. I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s okay, I was kind of an ass, too.” Rainbow talked fast so Applejack didn’t get a chance to interrupt. “Somepony made me see that not everypony is going to feel a certain way about things and that I should respect that. You are allowed to make your own choices and, as a friend, I want you to know I’m all for that.”

“That’s—” Applejack blinked dumbfoundedly. “That’s surprisingly insightful of you Dash. I appreciate it.”

They walked in silence again. They reached the clearing.

“I still stand by with what I meant earlier.” Applejack seemed to ponder her words for a second. “But could I see it, again? Just this once?”

Applejack looked at Rainbow Dash, and she saw something she’d not often seen in AJ’s eyes. Dash quirked an eyebrow. “See what?”

“The necklace.”

“Oh, that,” Rainbow replied, coupled with chuckles. “Naw, I sold it.”

“You done what?!”

The few birds that had already woken had now been thoroughly scared off, so the morning was again silent, save for the echoing shout. Applejack breathed deep and closed her eyes. “Sorry about that, Rainbow. I shouldn’t have gotten angry.”

“It’s ‘aight.”

Applejack continued to draw breath, huffing through her nose like a tiny bull. “May I ask who'd you sell off it to?”

“Just some ponies.” Rainbow turned away and started trotting again, now starting on the incline of the hill. “I mean, there were a lot of takers—there was this pegasus, didn’t talk all that much, and this earth pony who smiled an awful lot.”

Applejack caught up to her and looked at her crookedly. “Then there was this prissy unicorn, who threw a fit when I told her how much it’d cost... I don’t think you’d like that pony very much. And then there was this purple egghead that had called in lots of her neighbors and they all wanted it too and…”

“Rainbow, what the Tartarus are you talkin' about?”

“I mean, there were just so many of them, I can hardly be held responsible for keeping track of all of em. You’re better off just asking the Mayor if you really wanna know… just, you know, don’t go knocking on her door at midnight." She looked around, as if for eavesdroppers, then winked and nudged her head at the top of the hill.

She watched Applejack stop sprinting just short of ramming into the tree.

By the time Rainbow reached the summit, AJ was breathing heavily, standing rigidly, and was not blinking nearly often enough. Rainbow shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah… I don’t think those ponies were all that bright.” She gesticulated at the tree. “I mean, why buy something, like, super expensive and then just leave it lying around here?”

The sun peeked over the horizon and dyed the sky red, then yellow, and then finally, hue by hue, blue. Leftover clouds from the previous day’s storm rolled overhead, carried by a wind that smelled of moisture, the coming day, apples, and a world of things that Rainbow knew very little of. The air was crisp on her coat and tangy on her feathers, and it tugged on her hairs as the minutes passed watching.

The tree bore on its skin the wrinkles of time. Two names were carved into its trunk, inside a crude drawing of a heart. The dates underneath, however, looked like they’d been added quite some time later.

And on a sagging branch that had been left unpruned, whether forgotten or just uncared for, hung a golden pendant.





Dash put a hoof over AJ’s shoulder, who returned the favor. Applejack grinned mischievously. “Now, where’s my gift?”

“Oh, it’s right there.” Dash pointed at the edge of the orchard. “See that tree way over there?”


Dash was already halfway down the hill, however.

“Last one there is an egghead!”

“Consarnit, Rainbow, you cheat!”

Rainbow Dash couldn’t stop herself from grinning. She was grinning all the while she sped down the path and past the trees. Even when she ended up finished second, she didn’t stop grinning; she felt like she’d won.

After all, she’d found the perfect gift.
« Prev   9   Next »
#1 ·
This was very bittersweet, as I think it should be. Honestly, I gasped upon learning that the necklace belong to Applejack's father. I honestly believe if this was to happen it the show, this is how it would play out. Very well done.
#2 · 1
My reaction to this story is quite discordant. Sorry, Author, but I can't really follow any character's thought process here.

I have no idea why AJ doesn't want the gift. Similar to Terrus, my jaw dropped when the inscription was revealed. And then I became incredibly confused when everyone started to act like this wasn't a good idea. What? RD went to Tartarus and back to find it, spent a ton of money to acquire it, and it's incredibly thoughtful. Sure, I understand it carries a lot of emotional weight for AJ, and receiving it would be very bittersweet, but the idea that she would reject it boggles my mind. Intrinsic in that decision is that she's letting this lost family heirloom get away, that she would rather it end up somewhere else in the world, instead of with her family. Why not cut down her parents' trees and donate it to Appleloosa while she's at it, if the memory is so impossible to bear?

Sorry if I'm carrying on, but I needed more of an explanation as to why this was a bad idea.

A couple minor things: RD dropping the word "ass" gave me a bit of whiplash. If you want a story with them ponies speakin naughty-like, it can potentially work. But a single swear looks too out of place. That, and the term is "save for the" not "safe for the" (not sure if that's a typo or not).

All that aside, I was impressed by the narration. Well done applying RD's worldview to the third-person narration, though there were a couple misfires near the beginning when she referred to her friends as a "violently pink giggle-monster." But otherwise, it all sounds like RD, so good job!

Thanks for writing!
#3 ·
The scope and pacing of this story feel really good. It's a deceptively tough balance to strike—especially with a low-key SoL-style conflict like this one—but you do a great job of making the story feel neither dragged out, nor resolved too quickly. The character voices also feel really good, which helps get into the groove of this piece pretty easily.

In the end, though, AJ's motivations kind of confuse me. When she first sees the necklace, she's ready to accept it: she thanks Rainbow and even makes a passing comment about its expensiveness. But then when she finds out it's from her parents, she's no longer willing to accept it. That's an intriguing set-up because it implies something other than the expensiveness of the necklace is why AJ won't accept it. But then, Rarity's scene and the final scene both seem to say that AJ's original problem with the necklace was a matter of expense, after all. This resolution just doesn't quite feel satisfying to me.

The way you've got things set up as a whole right now, your message isn't coming strongly enough, I feel. The story seems to be setting up to make a revelation about Applejack, her desires, and her emotional state, but the answer that it delivers in the end feels a little curt to me.

I think my biggest suggestion would be to really think about what this piece is trying to say about Applejack's character. You might have to rethink some of the plot points to be able to get to where you want to go, to pay off on the strong set-up work that you've done.
#4 ·
I don’t know that much about writing, so please keep that in mind when reading my comments.

This was not bad. I did have, at points, trouble understanding what was going on in the story, as if it was “cluttered” somehow. That may have been just me, though. There were some nice character moments here, but I feel that there's also room for development. Don’t know what else to say, sorry.

Keep at it, and thank you for writing!
#5 ·
Going to agree with some of the other commenters: why doesn't AJ want the necklace? If it was because it was something too intensely personal for her to process, that didn't really come through; all the emphasis on price muddied the waters, and we don't have any idea why she'd feel better about some random griffon trader owning it. If it's because of the price itself, then that really didn't come through, because the bit that everyone reacts to is the reveal of whose necklace it is (AJ seems perfectly willing to take it, if a bit grumpily, up until she finds out it's dad's). And if it's something else, then that really, really didn't come through, because I can't come up with a third interpretation.

If we take that aspect of the plot as a given, though--if we just assume her reason makes sense--then a lot of things here feel very nice. I like Dash's obliviousness turning into a kind of low cunning by the end, and I love the resolution. The narration's voicing is a little bit of a mixed bag, with some un-Dash-like words and phrases sneaking in ("vibe of antiquity" doesn't sound right to me, even with the deliberately casual presentation), but at least 90% of the time I felt like it was capturing Dash's voice and headspace well.

Really, all this needs is that one key piece of clarity and a little copy-editing, and I think it'll prove to be something special--and I love getting to read "something special." So... thanks!
#6 ·
Trying to get:

My comments in before tomorrow's deadline, I'll largely agree with everyone above about the unresolved "why?" Halfway through the story, I thought the necklace was going to turn out to be a traditional earth pony engagement gift, so for Dash to give it to AJ even with the Apple family connection was going to be culturally very dissonant for AJ unless Dash is actually declaring her love. But then that didn't happen...

So clear that up, author, and you'll be well on your way!

#7 · 1
Hate to pile on the "what's with the necklace" baggage train, but... yeah, what's with the necklace? I know that's a pretty weak comment, this late in the round, but everything I could possibly say has kinda already been said.


Rainbow had literally had to go through Tartarus and back,

I alluded to this in my mash-up, but... literally went to Hell and back? This calls to mind an image of Rainbow Dash tracking down and mugging the disembodied soul of Bright Mac to obtain a lost family heirloom. Or grave-robbing it from his corpse.

Maybe that's why AJ didn't want it...
#8 ·
The prose is good, the emotions for the most part feel natural and well conveyed...

But they don't make a whole lot of sense to me? Mostly the main conflict, AJ not wanting her necklace and all the other Main 6 agreeing it's a terrible idea. It was just a bit weird to me.